President Donald Trump’s claim to have wrung billions in additional commitments for defense contributions from European leaders is already being undercut by NATO leaders and members nations.
NATO members have already been upping spending since a 2014 agreement, and some have been spurred to do more by Trump’s repeated focus on the issue.
Trump triumphantly told reporters before departing the NATO summit in Brussels said the ‘additional money that they will be putting up has been really amazing.’
‘People have stepped up today like they’ve never stepped up before,’ Trump said, declaring victory. He attributed the change to his contentious whirlwind visit. ‘Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment,’ Trump said.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to undercut claims by President Donald Trump that he had wrung new spending commitments out of fellow NATO members
Scroll Down for Video
But there were no immediate specifics on what Trump said he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has cheered Trump’s calls for more spending while also stating that the spending curve has already been changed, refused repeated efforts in a CNN interview to get him to cite a specific agreement.
‘We have agreed we have to make good on pledges we have made,’ he said, referencing the 2014 commitment. ‘The fact is that we have a clear commitment to increase defense spending and we all agree that we have to deliver on that,’ he told CNN’s Christian Amanpour.
The president told reporters in Belgium that he has ‘no problem’ with NATO now that member nations have agreed to spend at least $33 billion more on their collective defense
The president told reporters in Belgium that he has ‘no problem’ with NATO now that member nations have agreed to spend at least $33 billion more on their collective defense. ‘We made a tremendous amount of progress today,’ the American president said.
‘The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,’ Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is not threatening to pull the United States out of NATO after member nations agreed to step up their contributions
Trump declared: ‘They have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy, and we have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,’ Trump said.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018. NATO leaders gather in Brussels for a two-day summit. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defense if they were attacked.
Trump said he made his anger clear to allies on Wednesday.
Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans. He seemed to suggest a speeded-up timeline, saying nations would be ‘spending at a much faster clip,’ which if it panned out would mark a significant milestone for the alliance.
‘Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent, and some are going back to get the approval, and which they will get to go to 2 percent,’ he said.
U.S. leaders for decades have pushed NATO allies to spend more on defense in an effort to more equitably share the burden in the mutual-defense organization.
NATO countries in 2014 committed to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense within 10 years. NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
Macron, in his own press conference, seemed to reject Trump’s claim that NATO powers had agreed to increases beyond previous targets. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 percent by 2024 and no more.
The emergency session came amid reports that Trump had threatened to leave the pact if allies didn’t immediately up their spending, but officials said no explicit threat was made.
‘President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,’ Macron said.
Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending.
Earlier Thursday, Trump called out U.S. allies on Twitter, saying, ‘Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia.’
TIME FOR ME TO FLY: President Donald Trump checks the time as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stands beside him, at the Art and History Museum at the Park Cinquantenaire in Brussels on Wednesday, July 11, 2018
He complained the United States ‘pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe’ and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, which ‘must ultimately go to 4%!’
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday also turned a harsh spotlight on Germany’s own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government ‘totally controlled’ and ‘captive’ to Russia.
He continued the attack Thursday, complaining that ‘Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia.’
U.S. President Donald Trump raises his hands during a press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018. NATO leaders gather in Brussels for a two-day summit. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
‘Not acceptable!’ he railed before arriving late at NATO headquarters for morning meetings with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia.
During the trip, Trump questioned the necessity of the alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: ‘What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?’
Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she had ‘experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good.’
Trump tweeted that NATO countries ‘Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025’ and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense – a bigger share than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.
Still, Trump has been more conciliatory behind the scenes, including at a leaders’ dinner Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference before departing the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
‘I have to tell you that the atmosphere last night at dinner was very open, was very constructive and it was very positive,’ Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the president of Croatia, told reporters.
Amid the tumult, British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union, sounded a call for solidarity among allies.
‘As we engage Russia we must do so from a position of unity and strength – holding out hope for a better future, but also clear and unwavering on where Russia needs to change its behavior for this to become a reality,’ she said.
Trump heads next to the United Kingdom. Although Trump administration officials point to the longstanding alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump’s itinerary in England will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected.
Instead, a series of events – a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II – will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed the significance of the protests, telling Fox News that one of the reasons the two countries are so close ‘is because we have the freedoms that we’ve all fought for. And one of the freedoms we have is freedom of speech and the freedom to express your views. And I know that’s valued very highly over here and people can disagree strongly and still go out to dinner.’
He also said meeting the queen would be an experience Trump ‘will really cherish.’
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while speakings during a news conference before departing the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018. With Trump on stage are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, behind Trump, and National security adviser John Bolton, right. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, pose during a group photo of NATO heads of state and government at Park Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. NATO leaders gathered in Brussels Wednesday for a two-day summit to discuss Russia, Iraq and their mission in Afghanistan.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
U.S. President Donald Trump takes his seat as he attends the multilateral meeting of the North Atlantic Council, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/pool)
U.S. President Donald Trump, second right, listens to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, during their bilateral breakfast, Wednesday July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their bilateral breakfast, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, gestures while speaking to U.S. President Donald Trump during their bilateral breakfast, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE – In this April 9, 2010 file photo a Russian construction worker speaks on a mobile phone in Portovaya Bay some 170 km (106 miles) north-west from St. Petersburg, Russia, during a ceremony marking the start of Nord Stream pipeline construction. In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany ‘totally controlled’ by and ‘captive to Russia’ and blasted NATO allies’ defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)
President Donald Trump, lower right, leans back to talk to from left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish President Andrzeji Duda, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa during a group photo of NATO heads of state and government at Park Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. NATO leaders gathered in Brussels Wednesday for a two-day summit to discuss Russia, Iraq and their mission in Afghanistan.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)